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Home Editorials of Interest Taipei Times Bilingual educators need support

Bilingual educators need support

At the end of last month, the Cabinet’s draft act for the establishment of a “bilingual national development center” was set aside due to a lack of consensus in a preliminary legislative review. On Tuesday last week, the Taipei Department of Education said that more time was needed to reach the 2026 coverage target of bilingual teachers in the capital’s schools.

Taiwan’s bilingual policies face many challenges.

Bilingual education is an international trend and is nothing new in other countries. Spain and Indonesia have been running bilingual curriculums for many years and their teaching goes well beyond “classroom English.” The results of their approaches for bilingual learning are backed up by scientific research.

For example, a 2019 paper in the International Journal of Bilingual Education and Bilingualism examining Spain’s bilingual teaching curriculum showed that bilingual physical education lessons have clear benefits for study. Using a strategy that capitalized on the diverse spoken language and curriculum design that teachers provided, student attention rates during bilingual spoken explanations were above average. As well as improving their ability in spoken and written English, they had the same amount of physical activity or even more than in ordinary physical education lessons.

Similar research in Indonesia showed that teachers and students generally supported the trend of bilingual and even all-English curriculums, with respondents saying it was mainly because bilingualism makes students more competitive and boosts national development.

Publication of the research lags behind the true progress made in teaching environments, suggesting that the bilingual teaching environments in Spain and Indonesia are by now a long way ahead of Taiwan.

The results of bilingual learning are being revealed. Over the past three years, I have been responsible for implementing our school’s plan for bilingual instruction in some subjects, and have assisted with the training and promotion of bilingual teachers. What we have seen is not just quantitative growth — with schools increasingly promoting bilingual instruction — but also that students are happy to accept the changes.

For example, under my senior-high school physical education curriculum last semester, students at the end of the semester said that they had learned sporting skills without being impeded by the language factor, and could naturally and appropriately communicate about sports in both languages.

Previously, I took part in a bilingual curriculum review meeting of the National Academy for Educational Research, where I observed the expertise and enthusiasm of bilingual teachers and researchers. From art and technology subjects to tested bilingual subjects, students are demonstrating clear proof of study, and this method of teaching is gradually showing its effectiveness in terms of student progress indicators.

Those working in the field of bilingual education deserve encouragement. Bilingual ability is an area of expertise that needs to be cultivated. In the past few years, the Ministry of Education has been promoting study credit classes and bilingual classes. As a result, the bilingual abilities of teachers are improving and this is becoming apparent in the quality of their students’ study.

In addition, bilingual research projects can be expected to produce even clearer evidence.

There should be no doubt about the value of bilingual education and study. It certainly does not impede students’ progress, as opponents assert. It is not a disaster, nor does it engender social class divisions. Such viewpoints show a lack of respect for those working in bilingual teaching. Anyone who has doubts about bilingual education should visit a classroom to see for themselves and understand the true face of bilingual teaching, which is easy to do once you know how.

Hardworking teachers throughout Taiwan and others working in bilingual education are willing to step outside their comfort zones. They deserve praise for the great effort they are making to improve the education and prospects of their students.

Tao Yi-che is a bilingual teacher at the Affiliated High School of National Chengchi University and deputy director of the policy department of the National Senior High-School Teachers’ Union.

Translated by Julian Clegg


Source: Taipei Times - Editorials 2023/05/13



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Newsflash


Su Beng, the revolutionary.
Photo Courtesy of Chen Lih-kuei, Hsu Hsiung-piao and Su Beng Education Foundation

“How is it possible for a documentary filmmaker to capture the life of Su Beng (史明)?” director Chen Lih-kuei (陳麗貴) asks in the beginning of Su Beng, the Revolutionist (革命進行式). It is a fair question for anyone facing the enormity of a life like that of the lifelong Taiwanese independence campaigner.